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Coolbase: Tree-outline information manager hindered by poor implementation

Ian Harac | June 5, 2014
Outliner programs (such as Treepad) have been around a long time. They allow for easy arrangement of arbitrary bits of data in a hierarchical format that's useful for writers, students, researchers, programmers, and anyone else who often works with many small pieces of information that lack a predetermined structure. Typically, they are "two pane"--an outline pane, like the File Explorer tree view, on one side, and details of the selected item on the other. Argentum Coolbase follows this effective and well-known style, though it is clunky and underdeveloped.

Editing an item requires using a key combo or clicking the "Edit" button. It isn't activated by clicking in a field directly. Worse, once you're done editing, you must manually press "Alt-S" to save your changes. There is no warning that you have made unsaved changes. Edit an item, then click another part of the tree before saving, and your edits are lost. Coolbase is also silent about errors. I accidently created an invalid custom property, and it didn't alert me; it just ignored the entry, leaving me to wonder if I'd misunderstood how custom properties are added.

Searching is equally problematic. Full text searches are easy: Type in the string you want, and you get back the items. However, I wanted to search a custom property for a numeric value. I could only specify a literal, not ">5" or the like. Likewise, I searched for "1," and it returned items with "1", "10", and "12," even though the field I searched was defined as a number.

Overall, Argentum Coolbase is a product I really wanted to like, as it fills a niche I often need. And, it must be noted, it does work — I encountered no obvious bugs, response was rapid, and all the necessary functionality is present. However, the lack of development, the high price for what you get, and the sparse documentation all weigh heavily against it.


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